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Tatiana Tsuber checks the new Mountain Line route map Monday while waiting for a bus at the downtown transfer station. Monday was the first day of zero-fare riding and new routes on Mountain Line.

The Missoula Urban Transportation District has joined with dozens of other cities across the country to participate in a national “Stand Up For Transportation Day” rally on Thursday at 11:45 a.m. to garner support for a long-term transportation funding bill which will be up for renewal this spring in Washington, D.C.

The current federal transportation funding bill, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), which provides $105 billion in funding for surface transportation programs for fiscal years 2013 and 2014, is set to expire on May 31.

According to the American Public Transportation Association, this presents a real challenge to the nation’s transportation infrastructure – bridges, roads and highways – and the people who depend on it.

“For the last decade, Congress has passed one short-term solution after another,” said Virginia Miller of the APTA. “Without a long-term federal transportation funding bill, Americans across the country will face tremendous uncertainty, and public transportation systems with infrastructure in desperate need of repair will once again resort to temporary solutions.”

In 2014, Americans took 10.8 billion trips using public transportation, the highest annual ridership in 58 years, according to the APTA.

Thursday's event will begin with an 11:45 a.m. gathering in Caras Park, followed by a rally on the Higgins Avenue Bridge at noon.

“We want Missoulians to span the bridge, and help send a message to Congress that the expansion, maintenance and upkeep of our local public transportation infrastructure are vital to the success of our community,” said Eric Hines, chairman of the MUTD, which oversees Missoula's Mountain Line bus system.

Mountain Line debuted several new initiatives this year, including a zero-fare demonstration project, 15-minute service and late evening service. All have led to record-breaking ridership, he said.

“We want to keep this positive momentum going,” Hines said.

Volunteers are asked to RSVP by emailing and meeting in Caras Park at 11:45 a.m. Mountain Line will provide lunch for volunteers following the rally.

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